I was introduced to Sarah by Dr. Richard Hart who wrote me an email saying there was a Danish nurse who wanted to volunteer in Tchad at about the same time as I was preparing to go there for the first time.  It turns out that a physician I first met in the Brazilian Amazon in 1994, Dr. Erling Oksenholt, had independently got to know Sarah on a mission trip to the Peruvian Amazon in 2001 where Sarah was doing a 6 month stint.  Erling invited Sarah to go with them to Ethiopia the following year.  Two weeks prior I found myself in Oregon, not far from where Erling lived so I decided to go and see him.  I had just decided to go to Chad for at least a six-year stint and I let Erling know.  Two weeks later, Erling was in Ethiopia with Sarah at the Gimbie Adventist Hospital.  Near the end of their stay, he asked her if she would be interested in working long term in a hospital like the one there in Gimbie.  She said she would, but she’d prefer someplace more primitive where they spoke French.  Erling told her she should go to Chad and put her in touch with Dick Hart and Adventist Health International.

So when I heard that there was a female Danish nurse going to Chad, I have to admit I got a little curious.  What would she look like?  Just the thought of a Danish nurse sounded exotic to me.  I wrote Erling to ask about her and he sent me a picture he had taken of her in Ethiopia from the side.  I just remember a big bush of red hair, a cute face and a relaxed attitude.  Sarah and I started writing by email, mostly me explaining to her the little I knew of the hospital in Chad.  She then told me she was coming to the US to California to visit some friends.  She was flying into Los Angeles and her friends lived about two hours away.  I asked her how she was going to get to her friends’ house and she wrote back that she’d just take public transport.  That gave me the excuse to offer to pick her up from the airport and take her to her friends’ house.

I again remarked her easy going manner, long stride and comfortable clothes as she walked up the gangway from the international arrival terminal.  In one of our last emails I’d invited her to go on a trip to the Channel Islands that a friend and I had planned for the day after she arrived.  She agreed and in the car we talked and talked easily the whole way to Ventura. What mattered a lot to me is that the conversation early turned to God and spiritual things.  At my apartment, she stated she wanted to sleep on the beach.  That sounded great to me so we went out and talked around a campfire for awhile before falling asleep.  The next day we took a ferry out to the islands where we kayaked, swam and hiked.  On the way back, I invited her down to San Diego with me and another friend on a last surf trip we’d planned.  She agreed.  In San Diego, she tried surfing for the first time and then we continued up the coast surfing at San Onofre and then finally back in Ventura.  So it wasn’t until three days later that she finally saw the friends she had come to visit.  I was already growing attached to her and suddenly didn’t know what to do.  It was Wednesday and I left Saturday for France while she was headed to Chad a few weeks later.

Thursday, Sarah called me to invite me to a Danish dinner she was preparing Friday evening at her friends’ house.  I took the opportunity to invite her to join me with a presentation I was making on Chad for vespers at La Sierra University.  We had a great time at dinner and her friends let her borrow their Mercedes convertible which she drove us in down to the University.  Things went well at vespers except for the brief awkward moment during prayer before going on stage when the person leading called Sarah my wife!  After vespers, we were so engrossed in each other that we totally got lost on the small campus before finally finding the car.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to marry her, but waited until six months later when we were in Chad to ask her.

TIMELINE

 

September 2003 – Sarah arrives in Tchad

January 2004 – James arrives in Tchad

December 2004 — James & Sarah are married in Denmark

 

January 2011 – James & Sarah leave the Béré Adventist Hospital in the hands of Olen & Danae Netteburg

 

June 2011 — James & Sarah’s twins: Adam & Miriam are born in California

December2011 – Adam dies of Malaria in Béré

June 2012 – Moundou Adventist Surgery Center opens its doors

January 2013 – James & Sarah’s son Noah is born

February 2014 — James & Sarah leave the Moundou Adventist Surgery Center in the hands of Scott & Bekki Gardner

October 2014 — Isak is born in California